Understanding the Basics of Cardio

If you’re one of the many millions of people struggling with their weight, then you may have heard terms like “cardio” before. Simply put, cardio is a type of exercise that focuses on increasing your heart rate and lung capacity.

By increasing heart rate and lung capacity, cardio helps individuals to strengthen their heart, their lungs, and the extra oxygen taken in during workouts is great for muscle growth, the burning of fat, blood pressure levels, and brain activity.

We will discuss the fundamentals of cardio exercise and other information you should be aware of before attempting to raise your heart rate in a workout.

Cardio and Your Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate (THR) is the number of beats per minute that will allow for maximum efficiency in burning fat and strengthening muscles. This number is different for everyone, depending on factors like age, weight, gender, etc. Before you start any cardio routine, you should first find out what your target heart rate is. You can do this by finding out your maximum heart rate, which is generally a line you do not want to cross. Once you find your max rate, you can subtract to find your targeted rate.

A person’s THR is usually between 65% and 85% of their max heart rate.

Low Intensity Cardio vs. High Intensity Cardio

Most individuals would do well to know the difference between low and high intensity, if only for the purposes of maximizing workouts. High intensity cardio workouts can drain you, and depending on the target zone you’re reaching, they may not even be that efficient for you.

Think of high intensity cardio like a game of soccer. You’re constantly and frantically running around, pushing yourself to the extreme in trying to chase down the ball. A low intensity cardio workout would be more akin to a game of full-court basketball. You’re still running the floor, but the speed is lessened and there’s no real “chase.”

A low intensity workout might involve jogging around the block, swimming, or even a brisk walk, whereas a high intensity workout would be a run, a 30-minute spinning class, or anything that brings your heart to the higher end (85%) of its maximum rate.

Continuous Workouts vs. Staggered Workouts

Many individuals choose to complete cardio exercise for 30 minutes or more nonstop, while others take a staggered approach, working out for 10 minutes, resting for a few minutes, and then resuming.

The former certainly has its benefits, but the latter, the staggered workout, is better to achieve a complete and prolonged cardio experience.

You want to avoid overtraining your body. If you are tired and unable to exercise, this means you have over-trained your body. You can prevent this with the staggered approach, giving your body time to recuperate between sessions and refraining from pushing your body too hard.

Any exercise that increases your heart rate and lung capacity is technically a cardio exercise, so the sky truly is the limit on the types of exercise you can do and the type of equipment you can use. Just remember that, although cardio may involve running, a proper workout isn’t a race.


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